Pine or Plastic?
It can be difficult to debate the eco-virtues of a plastic christmas tree over a ‘real’ (as in chop down a pine) one. In order to obtain a real tree you have to shop for it each year, here in Australia pines Christmas tree pines are not native species. They are grown readily for production purposes as they fast, but are grown in place of native vegetation which means monoculture plantations and loss of habitat diversity for Australian native animals. They may also require pesticides, and fertiliser through their growth processes. When we buy a pine tree we often have to drive to pick it up, requiring the use of fossil fuels (let’s face it, not many bus drivers would be ok with you lugging a 7 foot tall tree on public transport). In contrast a plastic tree, made from petrochemicals (fossil fuels), will last you an eternity as long as you don’t loose all the bits and only requires one trip to the stores in addition to it’s journey from China to your retailer (which if it flew from China rather than being shipped could be see it embody a huge amount of carbon). To keep your plastic tree safe you will have to store it for the 11 months of the year when it’s not on display meaning that this space that it holds will require you to forgo storing something else. When you are done with your plastic tree it will be committed to landfill for eternity.
As you can see there is no real clear winner in the pine or plastic debate. Personally I haven’t owned a plastic tree since moving out of my family home as a teenager opting to ‘invent’ a tree alternative each year instead (aside from the one year my Mr. bought me home a rogue pest pine that was growing on the farm he worked at). The other alternative is to buy a nice native tree, decorate it in it’s pot, then set it free by planting it in your garden in the new year.
Here is a collection of christmas tree alternatives that I rounded up online. Will be sharing the option I decided upon this year in a DIY post tomorrow.
How about a tree that can be made from a plank of recycled timber, a few ol’ nails and some biodegradable string? This string tree is a beautiful alternative to having one of those desk top sized plastic dust collectors. The best part about it is that a plank of board is a whole lot easier to store than a bulky plastic tree and when you are sick of it you can disassemble it and use all the bits to create something new. The tutorials for the tree above is available here. I also recommend checking out this DIY if you are keen for a more 3D string tree.
The Cardboard Tree
These beauties above are the brain child of a Los Angeles based Designer Heidi Adams and her label Form by Heidi. A design-conscious and eco-friendly interpretation of a traditional Holiday tree. Constructed from recycled materials these trees are designed to endure, and are completely recyclable when you are ready to say goodbye to them. The trees are fabricated in the United States using recycled material and sustainable business practices.
“In the context of a modern design, it is important to me that these trees be made in a sustainable way. This includes for me, using reclaimed materials, manufacturing in the United States to reduce the carbon footprint and paying a living wage,” states Designer Heidi Adams.
If you would like to attempt a full scale Christmas tree from cardboard boxes there is a DIY here. It’s a bit basic but if you scroll down you can see how a little creativity can transform this life size cardboard tree into your version of an eco-christmas.
The Minimalist Twig Tree
This is my fall back tree pretty much every year! I find a pretty twig somewhere either paint it or leave it natural and then create some pretty upcycled or recycled decorations to adorn it (check out last years DIY snowflakes). When I stumbled across the twig tree above I had a ‘oh dang it’s so pretty I wish I had thought of that myself’ moment. You can check out the DIY arrow ornament tutorial here.
The Tree Mobile
A joy to look at and a breeze to clean around. No need to worry about dust gathering behind this tree as you can sweep all the way around with ease. There are a variety of different tree mobiles if you have a google but this is by far the most beautiful and modern styling I have come across and if you are careful about what you use to create your tree mobile the whole thing should be up-cycable or recyclable at it’s end. Follow this tutorial to make your own.